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Judy

Fifty years after her death, performer Judy Garland is still revered. Starring as Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and other films such as ‘A Star is Born’, her talents remain dazzling. Her remarkable singing prowess and natural charisma made her a legion of fans. Her life was filled with triumph, tragedy and tears – perfect Hollywood fodder. A biopic is a given with ‘Judy’ touching all the expected bases with glittering aplomb.

Arriving in London for a series of concerts in 1969, singer and actress Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) should be in her prime. Unfortunately years of substance abuse, addiction and failed marriages have taken their toll. Reflecting over her life before the first show, Judy explores how she came this far as the twilight of her career nears its end.

‘Judy’ is the type of movie that would write itself as it has all the ingredients for a classic melodrama. It has this in spades with ‘Judy’ based on a celebrated Broadway play. Rupert Goold’s skillful direction ensures we get underneath her public persona to see how she came to be so damaged. Her relationships and other personal dramas are effectively highlighted without taking away from Garland’s incredible talents.

Incredible also is Zellweger’s performance. She conveys Judy’s worn out visage extremely well and gives her best performance to date. You truly believe you are seeing the legend on stage giving every ounce of energy to her audience. The rest of the cast and period setting are all top notch with the songs still packing emotion.

Fans of Garland’s work should be pleased with ‘Judy’. A consistently arresting drama that stays with you, it adds gravitas to Garland’s mystique. It’s easy seeing why her legendary status remains with her impact still being felt generations later.

Rating out of 10: 8

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ continues another long streak of Disney related films. Cinema screens have been filled with them with various Marvel extravaganzas and animated remakes. ‘Maleficent 2’ is derived from the popular Disney classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’. A sequel to the 2014 movie, ‘Maleficent 2’ is more of the same spectacle that Disney’s unfettered fortune can provide.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a powerful witch protecting the moors of her homeland. When Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) becomes engaged to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), trouble brews. This comes via Phillip’s mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Wanting to divide fairies and humans forever, the Queen’s plans see Maleficent use all her wiles to combat this latest threat to her domain.

A diverting time not taxing the mind too hard, ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is enjoyable. It doesn’t break any new ground and nor does it particularly linger in the memory. It provides colourful escapism with amazing CGI. You can’t ask too much more than that, even if Jolie doesn’t appear in it as much as expected. Acting honours go to Pfeiffer, who has a grand time as a wicked lady.

Feeling much like a production line product, ‘Maleficent 2’ is the Disney empire at its zenith. It’s easy seeing where the huge budget went with the original cartoon bought to stark life. The direction is decent as are the rest of the performances. There isn’t any need to have seen the first entry as it was as forgettable as this one which will be once you leave the theatre.

A mega-budgeted all-ages piece of cinematic fluff, ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is fine. That’s the best way to describe it, as are most of the current Disney products. The days of pushing the envelope appear over in terms of story with the real evil being the bland mediocrity Disney dishes out to modern movie audiences.

Rating out of 10: 6